Surrealism: Genesis of Revolution


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The history of Surrealism maintains a beautiful legend. After a long voyage, a sailor returned to Paris. His name
was Yves Tanguy. As he was riding in a bus along the Rue La Boetie, he saw a picture in the window of one
of the numerous art galleries. It depicted a nude male torso against the background of a dark, phantasmal
city. On a table lays a book, but the man is not looking at it. His eyes are closed. Yves Tanguy jumped out of
the bus while it was still in motion and went up to the window to examine the strange picture. It was called
The Child’s Brain, and was painted by the Italian Giorgio de Chirico. The encounter with the picture
determined the sailor’s fate. Tanguy stayed on shore for good and became an artist, although until then he
had never held either a pencil or a paintbrush in his hands.

Surrealism: Genesis of Revolution
Surrealism: Genesis of Revolution
Surrealism: Genesis of Revolution
Surrealism: Genesis of Revolution
Surrealism: Genesis of Revolution
Surrealism: Genesis of Revolution
Surrealism: Genesis of Revolution


This story took place in 1923, a year before the poet and psychiatrist Andre Breton published the
Surrealist Manifesto in Paris. Like any legend, it does not claim to be exact in its details. One thing cannot
be doubted: Giorgio de Chirico’s painting produced such an unforgettable impression that it became one
of the sources of the art of Surrealism as it began to develop after the First World War. The Child’s Brain
had a wonderful effect on someone else besides Yves Tanguy. “Riding along the Rue La Boetie in a bus
past the window of the old Paul Guillaume Gallery, where it was on display, I stood up like a jack-in-thebox
so I could get off and examine it close up”, Andre Breton later recalled. “For a long time I could not
stop thinking about it and from then on I did not have any peace until I was able to acquire it. Some
years later, on the occasion of a general exhibition of de Chirico [paintings], this painting returned from
my home to where it had been before (the window of Paul Guillaume), and someone else who was
going that way on the bus gave himself up to exactly the same impulse, which is exactly the reaction it
still provokes in me all this time after our first encounter, now that I have it again on my wall. The man
was Yves Tanguy.


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Surrealism, Genesis, Revolution




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